A few years ago, when I attended the annual Jewish Family Services Friends breakfast, I heard people speak about their experience volunteering for different JFS programs. I clearly remember thinking that if busy people such as they could make time to volunteer, anyone could. And for the last two years it’s been one of the most gratifying things I have ever done.
I signed up to become a volunteer driver as part of JFS’ JET Express program that provides rides for older adults who no longer drive. Once a week during my lunch “hour,” I leave my office, pick up Ruth from her house, drive her to her exercise class and then bring her home before returning to work.
Ruth and I didn’t know each other before JET Express, but from the moment we met, we clicked. Ruth is an active, vital and interesting 91-year-old woman who fills everyday with meaningful activities. Because of her neuropathy she can no longer drive, but that hasn’t slowed her down one bit. She attends church, sings in her choir, participates in civic groups, spends time with her family and more. She is always impeccably dressed, tastefully accessorized with colorful scarves, earrings, necklaces and socks reflecting the holiday season. Ruth is hilarious, with a sunny disposition and abundant optimism. In the car, we talk about current events, politics, books, sports (she does all the talking there) our families, her church, my synagogue and her dog, Ethel. She was delighted and surprised when my family and I attended her Christmas concert at Village Church, and I was very moved when she asked to come with me to the memorial service for the victims of the April 13 JCC/Village Shalom shooting.
Our driver/passenger relationship has grown into a deep and abiding friendship with mutual respect for our individual traditions.
Being a JET Express Driver is easy and fun. You can choose exactly when you drive, where you drive, and who you drive! You can drive as much or as little as you have time; you choose your rides online. By helping older adults get to medical appointments, hair salons, grocery stores, volunteer opportunities, we help keep them healthy, active and vital. Giving rides keeps older adults safe and gives them a valuable sense of companionship, community and independence.
Older adults in our community who are no longer able to drive need our help! Right now, we have a shortage of drivers for the number of older adults requesting rides. I hope you will consider becoming a volunteer driver for the JET Express program. Anyone can be a rider or driver, regardless of your religious affiliation. By being a JET Express driver, I give much more than a ride and I get exponentially more back in return – and you can, too.